Writing From An Alternate Reality

Every writer gets asked, “Where do your ideas come from?” at least a thousand times. The short answer for me is, “I don’t really know.” Another answer could be, “Everywhere.” In my upcoming Psychological Horror novel, Dark Hollow Road, a partial answer is from a simple road sign we passed while traveling through Eastern Pennsylvania several years ago. It was the catalyst, but from there even I am forced to ask myself, “Where did this come from?”

However, the answer that intrigues me most would be, “An alternate reality.”

It’s said that belief can be a powerful thing. In Mathew 17:20 of the Bible, Jesus says: ‘He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale contains the same kinds of messages. “Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture… Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.” One of his most popular quotes is, “Change your thoughts and you change the world.” Today, Notes From The Universe are sent out daily from Mike Dooley author of Infinite Possibilities. “If you know what you want, if you’ve made up your mind, if you can see it, feel it and move towards it in some way every single day… it has to happen.” His most popular quote seems to be, “Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones.”

All this leads me to the next question. “Which way is the creation process actually flowing?” My characters and the worlds they live in become very real in my mind during the process of storytelling. I can see them and their surroundings. I can hear their voices. I’ve often said they are the ones who pester me into writing. They won’t be quiet until I write down what they are telling or showing me. Are they already in existence waiting to get their stories out or am I creating their stories and in some metaphysical way, bringing them into a type of reality by the act of believing in them and their worlds?

If you’ve talked to any number of authors, they will likely all tell you at one time or another the characters took over. They did things and said things that the author never dreamed of. Stephen King tells the story of a very minor character, a waitress, who, over the course of the novel, became a major player. It was completely unplanned. Apparently she had a lot more to say than he’d initially thought. Who is actually telling the story here?

Last week I found an article at Myths of the Mirror called Why Books Are Living Things. It raises some intriguing ideas and I strongly encourage you to read it. In it the author states, “I believe, on an energetic level, that books are more than paper and ink or digital symbols. On some level, our creations are new entities with the ability to enter into relationship with others on a personal and emotional level, just as we do.” She also raises the questions, “What if, when we create worlds and characters, we create something that exists? How do we know that the myths we fashion in our heads don’t coalesce into something real and measurable? Simply because we lack the brain capacity and technology to perceive and quantify, doesn’t mean something can’t be.”

To this I add and ask, “How do we know we aren’t tapping into an already existing plane of reality, an alternate universe full of people with stories to tell? And for whatever reasons, they have chosen us to tell their tales.” I honestly don’t feel like I am the creator. I feel like a parapsychologist roaming the halls of some great haunted mansion, listening for the voices of those who came before me, asking them, “Who are you? What is your name? Why are you here?” And the answers come in the form of my stories. Is it their belief in me as a storyteller or my belief in them as actual entities that gets the job done?

Maybe it’s a combination of both. Maybe it’s not any of it. Maybe I’m completely nuts. Perhaps Edgar Allen Poe had it right when he asked, “Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?” Chances are no one will ever know what the real answers are. Either way, it’s certainly an interesting path to explore.

 

The Attractiveness of the Well-Read Man

There are a lot of lists out there suggesting what books a Well-Read Man should read. I didn’t agree with any of them. Mind, they are good books, fine books, classics even, but in many ways, limiting. Even when that list included 100 books, how could that possibly cover the entire gamut of what’s out there to read? I’d like for my man to enjoy reading the same things I do, but that hasn’t happened entirely. My man is into science fiction, David Weber to be more specific. I lean in the direction of Stephen King. I dare say neither of us has read even half of the books on those Must Read lists, and yet I consider us both well-read individuals.

But being well-read isn’t entirely based on the books a person has read. When I think of a well-read man I think more along the lines of his life experiences; his willingness to explore and try new things. The well-read man of my dreams can be found learning about HTML, CSS, and Javascript or driving the back roads with his camera looking for the perfect old barn to photograph and when we get home, he fires up the computer and plays Fallout for a couple hours or plops down in front of the television to watch some college football. He’s a man who wants to learn new things. He has a sense of adventure and wants to share those adventures and explorations with me. The sharing part is vital. I find that very attractive. Well-read, for me, is synonymous with well-rounded; complex, deep, and multi-dimensional. I consider my father a well-read man though he freely admits he’s probably not read more than a dozen novels in his entire life. He’s a newspaper and magazine type guy.

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Let my well-read man have a variety of interests. Let him read all the science fiction he can find, but let him also be willing to pick up a murder-mystery or a romance or a western and enjoy it just as much, too, or at least try to. My well-read man can wear jeans and a t-shirt, smell of motorcycle grease, and guzzle down a six pack one day and the next he’s just as attractive and comfortable donning a suit and tie, combing some Bay Rum oil through his beard, and taking us out to a romantic dinner.

Being well-read, like being well-educated, isn’t all about the books we’ve studied and enjoyed. I’ve worked a good many years with some highly educated people. They know their field of study inside and out. They’ve worked hard to get where they are in life and I’m not putting them or that hard work down, but all that book learning doesn’t always make them attractive to be around. All too many times what they’ve gained in education, they’ve lost in common sense, and a person without common sense is not at all attractive in my book.

As an author and an avid reader, I value the written word. Reading increases your vocabulary, improves your spelling, ignites the imagination, improves your memory, and allows one to explore the worlds we may not be able to visit in person.

Reading, like everything, is subjective and highly personal. A fussy eater limits themselves to a very narrow pallet of flavors. An artist who paints only in black and white, narrows their creative powers. A person who listens to only one type of music denies themselves a world of new sounds and rhythms. Locking yourself into a room with only one window that permits a singular view day in and day out, narrows what you know of everything beyond that window. Though we all have our preferred genre when it comes to books, mixing that up is just as important as trying new foods, listening to new music, or walking out that door to explore a brave new world beyond the mailbox.

This attractiveness isn’t limited to just men. Being well-read applies to all of us. Does a man want a partner who is only interested in one thing? Maybe some do. If all he wants is for you to be a good cook, keep a clean house, and be great in the sack, is that the type of guy you want to be around? To each their own, I suppose. That’s not what I’m into. I want a partner and friends I can discuss a myriad of topics with. That reminds me of an old boyfriend I had back in my early 20s. He was really good looking and he could tell you just about anything you ever wanted to know about the local fish population or the trees that grew in our area. And that’s where it ended. Yep, fish and trees. Not that I have anything against fish and trees, mind you, but I need more, want more, deserve more. The relationship lasted about six months.

I expect more from my partner and I want to be more for them as well as for myself. I don’t want to ‘complete’ anyone. No person, relationship, or religion should complete you. They can enhance what is already there, but the completion of the self comes from within, not from anything beyond that. Nor do I want to feel complete only because I am with someone. Come to me whole. Come to me well-read, well-rounded, and multifaceted. For me, that is where the attractiveness of a well-read man lies… that and he really must be a lover of books and reading.

The Fine Art of Censorship

Writer's Life

It’s nice to know that Big Brother Amazon knows me so well that he has taken it upon himself to keep certain offensive books off my reading list. It makes it so much easier for me to have someone else pick and choose what I can and cannot read. Heaven forbid I should have to make up my own mind on this one. Ah, censorship.

Though it has been going on for years, I only recently learned of Amazon.com’s little foray into book banning and censorship and frankly, am not pleased. Makes me not want to do business with them at all. I will certainly think twice about ordering anything, books or not, from them in the future. Here’s part of the Policy that Amazon claims so many small, indie publishers of erotica are violating and thereby getting arbitrary books banned from sales through Comrade Amazon.

Pornography Pornography and hard-core material that depicts graphic sexual acts.
Offensive Material What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect. Amazon Digital Services, Inc. reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of Titles sold on our site.

I respect their right to pick and choose what they sell but I can still go there and buy the Beauty Series by Anne Rice. I can pick up a couple copies of novels written by Marquis de Sade and while I’m shopping for my porn/erotica – maybe I’ll grab a copy of Shades of Gray, too. Oh, and remember that V.C. Andrews ‘Flower’ Series (Petals on the Wind & etc…)? Talk about INCESTUOUS!!  Yet, a copy of “Bound To Be Bitten” by Victoria Morris published by a small indie company called Pink Flamingo out of Michigan is not to be mine. Pity, looked good – sexy, motorcycle riding, bdsm-practicing vampires, ya know? Matter of fact, seems there a whole SLEW of Pink Flamingo books Amazon says I will find offensive. Founder of Pink Flamingo, Lizbeth Dusseau has a few words to say about this on her blog of July 17th.

And she’s far from the only one. Self-Publishing Revolution posted some commentary on this subject back in 2010. Joni Rodgers, another Indie author and booksellers spoke up in 2012 as did Seela Conner. Business Insider also published an article on this topic as have a myriad of other writer, publishers and business people.  

From my understanding, this ban rule only applies to getting the books on Kindle. Someone correct me if I have that wrong, please. So, I can still get any of the banned books in a regular book form just not on an eReader. Maybe Amazon is just trying to sell more of the hard copies of these books because they make more money on them? Their policy makes no sense and their selection process for banned titles is so random it’s almost humorous, save for the fact censorship is censorship is censorship and the freedom of speech and choice is being taken away by a bunch of faceless people who think they know what I want to read (or write for that matter!). As an author, I want to be able to choose my writing topics without the fear that Big Brother Amazon is going to work against me when I seek publication.

If Amazon is going to ban books that contain pornographic, erotic, incestuous and violent materials then they should ban ALL of it and not just the titles being put out by the smaller Indie Publishing houses. Course, that would wipe out a HUGE selection. Sadly, it seems all about money anymore and not the creative, unique works being put out by these smaller houses. Still… maybe being on the Banned Book List is a good thing. Check out some of these Banned Books (ironically on Amazon) and you’ll see what I mean.

Gosh, I hope this little rant doesn’t get found by those Amazon execs in charge of throwing darts at random book covers to see who’s next on the ban list, “Blood of the Scarecrow” might find itself up there on the board. (Despite having very little violence and virtually no sex at all in it.)  And just because I’m not feeling too warm and fuzzy towards Big Brother right now, that last link is a NON-Amazon one!

READ ON!